Archive for the ‘joy’ Category

In Gratitude

November 24, 2010

First dawn light creeps around the edges of our blackout curtain. Virginia mumbles….”I’m getting up…time to put the hummingbird feeders out.”


By the time I am up I see her tromping around the yard, bundled in her down jacket and carrying warm feeders out into the snow, her breath frosty from 16 degree temps. We warm by the wood stove with a hot cup of tea and watch a beautiful full moonset & pink sunrise.

Our plans for the day have devolved from “busyness work” into bringing the hummingbird feeders in every hour to thaw, taking pictures, stacking firewood, making Thanksgiving yummies and playing with our cats (including 2 new kitties in the family — Sprocket and Sammy).

And it hits me. Thanksgiving is tomorrow, but this day, right here, is already perfect. Slowing down I feel grateful. Feel it in my eyes. My chest. My toes.

I have so much to be thankful for.  Virginia.  Our cats (Sammy purring in Virginia’s lap as I write).  The snow, sent to slow us all down and make such days even possible.  Our clients, with their courage, curiosity, and commitment.  Home made Irish Cream and spinach artichoke surprise.  Dinner with family in a few short hours.  The miracle of hummingbirds with their feathers the size of pinheads.


Who and what are you thankful for?  How will you let them know?

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

Adventure

August 26, 2010

I have been blessed by a life full of adventure.  But what exactly is an adventure?

Dictinary.com says….

1. an exciting or very unusual experience.
2. participation in exciting undertakings or enterprises: the spirit of adventure.
3. a bold, usually risky undertaking; hazardous action of uncertain outcome.
When I think of adventure, the key elements that come to mind are:
1) the outcome is unknown, and cannot be fully controlled.
2) my limits will be tested, and therefore I will better know what my real limits are and what are perceived limits.
3) I will get to know myself better.  mentally.  physically.  emotionally.
4) I will discover and know my true power and experience deep “aliveness.”
At this moment I am at the airport, about to depart on an Adventure.  A 6-day, 560 mile (20,000′ of elevation gain) bike ride across the Rocky Mountains (Missoula, MT to Lander, WY).  One of my buddies just arrived and I can just feel his aliveness and excitement.  He is almost glowing.  He was telling me a story about getting ready for our journey when he paused and said, “there was this moment where I just had to let go.  And then everything was fine.”
There you have it.  Wish us luck.
Do you have enough adventure in your life?  What would you have to risk or give up to step into something that scares and excites you?  What might you gain?
<<click on link below to download a map of our ride>>
Tour de Rockies map

Adjusting Expectations

July 23, 2010

This was to be my summer.  I had spent several years meticulously re-habbing several nagging injuries.  I had gained strength and set ambitious goals for climbing, biking and mountaineering.  Then one little moment changed that.  I was on a climb in Squamish when I pulled and twisted in an awkward movement.  At that moment my summer, and my plans, were changed.

The injury isn’t severe, but enough so that I was in bed for a week and now slowly nursing myself back to health.  At first I was really bummed.  What about all my goals?  I had worked so hard…blah, blah, blah.  I was feeling pretty sorry for myself and rather depressed.  Then it hit me.  The source of my suffering lay in my expectations.  If I had different expectations then I would have a different experience.

So, I have adjusted my expectations.  I have set more modest goals and I am choosing to see this as an opportunity to become more at home in my body, to learn to listen to the signs/symptoms of what it is telling me.  I am still disappointed by what I won’t be doing this summer, but the sting of those disappointments is greatly reduced.  And I am welcoming the opportunity to achieve some of my other goals…like learning to slow down and enjoy relaxing in the hammock and reading a good book!

This reminds me of a quote that I have on my wall….

This is the way to your inner most home:

Close your eyes

And surrender.

~ Jalalludin Rumi

Questions: What expectations (explicit or implicit) do you have that are creating suffering for you?  What/who is the source of those expectations?  Are those expectations serving you?  What do they produce?

Look how much we have lost

May 18, 2010

We have just returned from leading a 10 day Leadership Journey to Ecuador (http://www.ascentinstitute.com/news/tlj.html).

Christina and John chatting in Puanchir's home (c)2010 Scott Stout

At one point during our journey we were sleeping under mosquito nets on the uneven dirt floor of the village shaman’s house, deep in the Amazonian rainforest.  In the morning, I was chatting with our Ecuadorian guide Christina when she said something that landed with a profound impact: “Look how little they have; look how much we have lost.”

Puanchir, Ishpingo village, Achuar Territory, Ecuador (c)2010 John M. McConnell

To put that statement in context: we are in the home of Puanchir, a man whose entire collection of belongings adds up to less than any one of us has brought with us for a two day visit.  He began his life as a warrior, fighting to protect his family from nearby marauding tribes.  He was present when the first missionaries arrived, bringing with them medicine, education, religion, and the radical change of moving from scattered home sites into small villages.  He went on to become the village healer, learning the traditional ways of using plants and ancient ceremonies to heal mind, body and spirit.  His village is on a dirt airstrip where light planes occasionally come and go, but he has never left the rainforest, nor seen the ocean, a town, or even a mountain.

Despite these drastic changes (all in one lifetime!) he remains fiercely committed to preserving the traditional ways, yet open to the knowledge and benefits of what the developed world offers.

Puanchir generously offered to share his home and to do a ceremonial healing for us, and he welcomed our support for his own physical ailments (he is in his 70’s but doesn’t know his exact age as there were no calendars during the first 1/2 of his life).  He has had essentially no “western” health care in his lifetime.

Puanchir does spend every single day with his family.  His life is sustainable and in harmony with his surroundings.  He works when he needs to and he naps/relaxes whenever he chooses.  He is so attuned to his body and the natural rhythms of life around him that he can sense animals and insects without seeing them.  He can hit a banana at 10 meters with the dart from a 10′ long blowgun.  He is committed to preserving the natural environment, not as an abstract idea but rather because he knows that a healthy environment is essential to a sustainable future. For everything and everyone.

He knows the legacy he is leaving for his family and village.  We witnessed him coaching the young men from the village with a balance of his fierce commitment to preserving the traditional knowledge and a patient and loving presence.  Most importantly, and despite the fact that at his age he lives with constant pain, the biggest gift that Puanchir gave us was his laughter.  We couldn’t help but join the giggling whenever he started to chuckle.  Some forms of human communication are universal and need no translation.

No one, least of all me, would suggest that we abandon our modern homes and move into thatched huts.  Yet I do long to experience and be much of what Puanchir has in his life.  Deep daily connection with family and community.  Knowing clearly his purpose in life.  Peace with who he is and who he isn’t.  Freedom from the damaging myth that we are independent — he knows we are all one.  Understanding that he already has enough.

***More posts re: our Journey to Ecuador coming soon.***

For more pictures of our journey visit: http://homepage.mac.com/jmac999/JourneyEcuador/index.html

Leadership Journey to Ecuador 2010, Ishpingo, Ecuador. (c)2010 Virginia Rhoads

Laughing While Falling

March 4, 2010

I just returned from my annual ski trip with some buddies.  We had a few days of skiing in beautiful Telluride, CO.

the boyz in Telluride

My objectives when skiing are generally to: Have fun and enjoy my friends.

When I take a closer look, however, I see that I am also trying to:

1) Look good, and…

2) Avoid falling down

When I do fall I tend to get frustrated.  I try to analyze what I did wrong, I make excuses to myself, or think “I should ski something easier so I don’t fall.”

JK having fun, falling or not!

This changed, at one point during our trip, when I took a minute to watch my friend and colleague Johnny K as he skis.  I noticed something really strange.  HE LAUGHS WHILE HE FALLS DOWN!  He is actually having fun in the midst of crashing!  Check him out in this picture…he hasn’t even finished crashing and he is looking up and laughing!  And then it struck me — this is consistent with how he lives his life.

Seeing him laugh while crashing — he really goes for it when he skis — opened up a whole new possibility for me.  First, I saw that if I wasn’t falling I wasn’t going for it.  Second, I saw that in trying to look good and not fall I was undermining my ability to ski at my best — trying NOT to do something makes me tense, tight and fearful.  Most importantly, skiing this way is less fun.

So, in the spirit of a good Johnny K head-over-heels crash, I ask you:

1) where are you taking yourself too seriously?

2) where are you trying to look good or not fail, at the expense of achieving your dreams, goals and aspirations?

3) what could you gain if you brought a focus of fun, laughter and learning to what you are doing?

Have fun…and go for it!

John M finally having fun in the midst of a wipeout.

Client Profile: Ginny Hutchinson/Better Because

February 12, 2010

In June 2008 we took a magical trek to the Himalaya in India in the form of a Leadership Journey to India.  This unique adventure is an integration of our leadership journey curriculum embedded in a 10 day trek to the base of Nanda Devi — the highest mountain in India (to see a video/slideshow of our journey visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jjktxnz3rbA)

As a result of the journey, one of our participants (Ginny Hutchinson, on far left) decided to begin a transition from successful Chief Marketing Officer to starting a positive media company.  Within one year of her return from India she has started a company, published a book, and filmed the Dali Lama.  She is off and running!

Ginny has been an inspiration to me and many others with her enthusiasm and her positive attitude, not to mention her courage to leave the safety of the known and to plunge into her dream with fearless energy.

Her vision with Better Because is two-fold: Spreading joy to make the world a better place; Helping educate children in need throughout the world.

I want to salute Ginny and her business partner Cathy Haffner on their accomplishments, and to point you toward their book “Better Because of You.”  Many people find it to be an energizing read, a great gift, and good way to get grounded in a positive attitude.  Below Ginny says a little more about her book and how to find it.

Bravo Ginny and Cathy!


Better Because of You shares true-to-life stories, thought-provoking quotations, and life strategies that can help readers do small things each day to make a big difference in their lives.  This fun book is essential reading for anyone looking for simple insights on leading a happier life – and it makes a special gift for special people you value.

Available at: Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/Better-Because-You-Cathy-Haffner/dp/0982519109/), Nordstrom Gift Department, University Book Store, or local book store everywhere …just ask.

Check it out:    www.BetterBecause.com <http://www.betterbecause.com/>

If you want to contact Ginny you can reach her at ginny@ginnyhutchinson.com or 206.696.3243.

Human DOING

December 10, 2009

[Post by John McConnell]

I have been going full tilt now for several months.  Really fully engaged in my work, my play, my family, my life.  It feels really good.

Yesterday I was scrambling to pull together the final details for our first newsletter, while packing for a trip to California, while attending to few client needs, while planning my holiday gift buying, while…. you get the picture.  Sound familiar?

On the one hand I love it.  I am so plugged in right now.  Generating, learning, sharing, doing, checking things off the list….  On the other hand, I think I lost the OFF switch.  As I boarded the plane I pulled out my laptop thinking “if I can just get one more thing done…”  And then I stopped.  And I FELT IT.  That state of being where I am no longer BEING, but rather stuck in the DOING mode.  I am a HUMAN DOING!

So what did I do?  I finished that one thing.  I kept pushing, even though some part of me was saying, “whoa, its time to slow down for bit.”  And I’m doing it right now.  Posting this blog as my last action before going into a 3-day training to continue my own personal and professional development.  I am choosing that.  Given what I am committed to right now it feels right to me.

That said, I know I am close to the point where I will lose the ability to CHOOSE.  I’ll be stuck in GO/GO/GO mode.  Historically I know that I’ll do that until something makes me stop.  Usually for me that involves getting hurt or sick.  So, I take a moment to breathe.  Stretch my shoulders.  Soften my eyes and brow.

Doing is so seductive.  Yet whatever I get done there will be another thing to do.  Fortunately, the training I am going into will help me slow down.  I am committed to slow down.  Do a Sudoku, take a nap, take a walk, take a bath.  Call my wife and tell her I love her.  It is time for me to bring my BEING self back to life.

How about you? Are you choosing your pace of doing or is it choosing you?  What are the unintended consequences your current pace?  How are you balancing the doing with the being?  What action or inaction might you do for a few minutes or a day to slow down, recharge, renew?  What little actions can you take in the midst of the doing?  My favorite on-the-fly techniques are: pause and take a deep breath; soften my eyes/brow; smile; think about something or someone I love; remind myself that I really do have all the time I need.

By the way, the project I was working so hard to push forward is our announcement of our new website and our latest offerings.  You can check it out here: http://www.ascentinstitute.com/news/ascent-news-2009-dec.html

We invite you to join us!

Less BRAKING, more TRUSTING

August 5, 2009

The Tour De France, the most grueling event in sports (2241 miles ridden over 3 weeks), completed last week with an exciting finish in Paris.  The British sprinter Mark Cavendish had won some sprint stages but had never won the final sprint into Paris.  He wanted it BAD!  As they riders approached the last corner before the final straightaway Cavendish was in a virtual tie with the other top sprinters.  Coming out of that turn, however, he launched into the lead and ended up winning by 20 yards — in a race where the victor usually wins by inches.

How did he do this?

Looking at the video it becomes clear.  Cavendish did not touch his brakes as he rounded that final corner while his competitors lightly touched their brakes to maintain a feeling of safety and to hedge their bets against crashing.  This reflects a commitment to win and a willingness to live with potentially negative consequences.  By not braking he ran a higher risk of crashing and losing, not to mention possible injury.

After watching this race I went mountain biking.  As I was riding, I noticed how often I was touching my brakes as I went into corners.  Occasionally this was a necessary check on my speed, but often this was merely a way to FEEL more comfortable.  So I began to experiment.  To my amazement I found that on about 75% of the corners I was braking unnecessarily.  Better yet, this resulted in greater speed, fluidity and JOY in the experience of riding!  Paradoxically, this did not make me more scared, it made me less scared.  Why?  Because less of my focus went into focusing on my fears.  Thoughts like: “oh boy, be careful here, you might be going to fast, look out for that obstacle…”  Instead, I placed my attention on trusting my body’s ability to set up for each corner with the appropriate speed.  As a general rule, we have more wisdom, knowledge, and capacity in our body than we tend to trust.

Questions: Where do you see that you are riding the brakes in your life?  Where are you playing it safe rather than playing to win?  What result do you stand for with such conviction that you would be willing to go for it rather than hedge your bets?  What would you be doing if you believed that you couldn’t fail and/or were willing to live with a few bruises?

I AM a blogger…now

July 27, 2009

I have been thinking about blogging for awhile now.  I kept thinking, “I would like to write a blog.”  And, “I should really write a blog.”  And then there was “I’m really going to try and blog.”

But the fact is, I had never written a real blog, so it was just an idea.  It wasn’t who I AM.  The words in my head were a combination of “wish-ing” and “should-ing.”

While trying to get myself to write today, I had an epiphany.  My story of who I AM in this world includes “not a blogger.”  And that story creates my reality.  And I can change that.

Then I remembered why I want to blog.  To be known, to share who I am and what I am up to.  To inspire, to listen, to learn, to move and be moved.  That sounds fun.  Less like work…more like play.

So, now I AM a blogger.  Expect to hear from me.  From the heart.  Sharing what I’m learning and experiencing.

My Question: Who are YOU?  What is your story about who you are and who you aren’t?  Is that story serving you?  If not, what story would you write about yourself?  If you “want to run more” consider changing your story from “I am someone who struggles to stay in shape” to “I AM a runner.”